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Tank cycling frustration

This is a discussion on Tank cycling frustration within the Newt and Salamander Help forums, part of the Beginner Newt, Salamander, Axolotl & Help Topics category; Help! I am having major issues with my 20 gallon tank water quality. To preface, a couple of months ago ...

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Old 26th September 2017   #1 (permalink)
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Default Tank cycling frustration

Help!

I am having major issues with my 20 gallon tank water quality. To preface, a couple of months ago I purchased a couple of newts to put in my tank which had been up and running for about 3 weeks prior. I had not found this forum and had no idea the tank needed to "cycle" first. (when I got my first firebelly newt I plopped it into a new tank and it lived there for 17 years - apparently I just got super lucky). After about a week my newts didn't look right. They weren't active and they wouldn't eat. I started researching and got some test strips and the nitrites were registering at 10ppm!!! I frantically started water changing like crazy but unfortunately I lost my newts.

Since then I have been trying to get that tank cycled - it has been about 6 weeks. I've followed the directions - putting fish food in whenever my ammonia level drops. I had a nitrite spike for a long time but recently it has started to even out. The ammonia has generally been 0-0.5ppm and the nitrites also 0-0.5 with nitrates climbing modestly to 20-30 ppm. I thought I was good to go. I bought a couple of newts and put them in the tank. Now guess what I am dealing with - the nitrite spike again! Nitrites climbed to 4-5ppm almost immediately. I am doing 50% water changes twice daily but it seems to almost instantly rise. Ammonia is still about 0.5ppm. Nitrates still about 20ppm.

I don't want to lose my newts. I can't go through that again. Should I just take them out and put them in a rubbermaid tub? They are ribbed newts - they are awesome - I named them Tarzan and Jane and I don't want them to die!

If anyone has any advice on how to get over this nitrite spike I would appreciate it! Thank you!



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Old 26th September 2017   #2 (permalink)
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Default Re: Tank cycling frustration

Hi, welcome to the site! :)

I'd say six weeks isn't really long enough to fully cycle a tank, although everybody has their own method, and each tank is different. I'd say move them somewhere you can control the water quality until ammonia and nitrite are both completely gone in their main tank. By changing all that water you might have to start over again, but keep going as you are adding the fish food and testing regularly. I don't know if you're using a filter or not, but if you can get hold of some filter medium or sponge from a mature aquarium it should speed things up a bit. Live plants will also help a lot as they will take up ammonia directly from the water and also bring beneficial bacteria on their leaves.
Nitrite spikes can take a long time to level out, I crashed the cycle in my koi pond by feeding too much while the weather was too cold. The ammonia was back to normal quite quickly, but the nitrite didn't disappear again for over two months!



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Old 26th September 2017   #3 (permalink)
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Default Re: Tank cycling frustration

Thank you so much for your reply - I really appreciate it!

It makes me want to die to think of starting this cycle over again. Lol. I know there is nothing I can do to speed it up but... ugh, so disheartening!

Ok, if I put my newts in a tub, how do I manage the water quality there? Do you just change it out completely each day? When my first newts died I kind of wondered if my overzealous water changes might have not been so good for them either. I don't want to make that mistake with these guys. I do have a filter and I did borrow some media from a friend who has a nice, cycled tank. Thanks for the help!



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Old 27th September 2017   #4 (permalink)
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Default Re: Tank cycling frustration

I know, I hate cycling tanks as well. I keep an extra air driven sponge filter in one of my tanks just so its cycled and ready to use if I have to set up a new tank in a hurry.

As far as changing water in their temporary tub goes you can be guided by testing for ammonia and nitrite to begin with as there are factors like the size of the tub, how much they eat, temperature of the water etc that effect the amount of waste produced. After a while you can normally see a pattern emerge and you can see how long you can leave it between changes. Don't underestimate the value of having loads of live plants in the tanks, any cheap fast growing types that petstores sell in bunches will speed up the cycle no end and also lengthen the time between water changes in their temp tub while you're waiting.



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Default Re: Tank cycling frustration

Ok - I bought two more plants on your advice and now have a total of 6 in my tank. Both newts in tubs. My little one Jane (who might actually be a male... hmmm) has skin flaking I am just changing his/her water and trying to minimize stress but I had to change the water in the tub due to ammonia already. I offered her a bit of worm and she did eat it. Tarzan (who might be female - yeesh!) seems to be doing fine.

My husband has a 5.5 gallon tank which I joke is basically a fish graveyard. He is constantly getting fish and other critters in there and they always die. The latest is a betta he got earlier in the week. He told me to test his water. Says he never changes it, never tests it, never treats chlorine and it is fine. I was sure he was wrong so I tested. Results: ammonia 1ppm (his shrimp was in there, dead, so maybe it came from that), nitrite 0!, nitrates 40ppm. I could NOT believe it. I have been cycling my tank by the book for 6 weeks now. His tank has been running for the same amount of time with zero attention and I am pretty sure it is cycled. I cut off some of the floss from his filter and stuffed it in mine - we'll see if it helps!

Any advice for anything else I should do with Jane and her flaking skin? I am hoping she will perk up being in clean water now but I am worried. One of the newts I lost looked this way too.



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